Tuesday, 22 December 2015

20 years ago - the Editorial Centre was born

An early Editorial Centre brochure

It was exactly 20 years ago today … that my career changed forever. It was on December 22, 1995, that my wife Pam and I bought the Westminster Press Training Centre in Hastings and changed it into the Editorial Centre. I had worked for WP for 18 years. I started as a reporter on the Shields Weekly News in Tyneside and chief subbed the Evening Despatch before becoming editor of The Northern Echo. In 1993 I moved South for a central management role. Two years later the parent company, Pearson, was looking to sell. As it geared up for the sale, one of the casualties was going to be the pioneering but unprofitable training centre on the seafront in Hastings - the brainchild of Nick Herbert and Bob James. I offered to buy it and, to my astonishment, the company said Yes. 

By the time we signed on the dotted line we had secured enough contracts to guarantee our fledgling business would be profitable for at least its first two years. Those at the centre - Robin Thompson, Steve Nelson, Frank le Duc, Steve Gladwyn, Sarah Dixon, shorthand supremo Sylvia Bennett and Anne Scott included - all came with us and helped turn it into a success. The Editorial Centre thrived for nine years before we sold it to the Press Association in 2004. 

The Editorial Centre was based in the iconic Marine Court on Hastings seafront

I then helped PA absorb it into its own training company, buying the Trinity training centre in Newcastle along the way, before standing down in 2007. My new company, SMS, has continued to work hand in hand with PA ever since.
So that gamble 20 years ago was the start of a huge adventure and a career-change I could never have predicted. It has seen me work for almost every national and regional newspaper. It has led to jobs in India, China, America, Australia, Malta, the Channel Islands and Ireland and with companies from Nigeria, Saudi, Hungary and Russia. We have trained thousands of people, many now award-winning journalists and executives. Some have remained firm friends. We have redesigned 90 newspapers and produced live publications with our long-standing partner, designer Mike Brough, and met some amazing people. We owe a big thanks to many who have helped and guided us along the way. But I am particularly indebted to Shamus Donald, who was the human resources director of WP and who eased the deal through, negotiated an ongoing contract and made it as painless as possible. Without him, none of what happened later would have been possible. So, 20 year ago today - the Friday before Christmas - I went to a solicitors in Hastings, signed a document, which was faxed to Newspaper House in London, transferred a bundle of cash and then Pam and I threw a party. Tonight it is a less flamboyant affair. But we have opened a special bottle and will raise a glass to Shamus - and to all those we have met along the way. Cheers.

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